North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

June 6, 2013

Our Views: Boy Scout sponsors face tough decision

North Jefferson News

COMMENTARY — An organization that’s perceived as being as American as apple pie (even though its roots are in England) has made a decision that has shaken many supporters to the core — and now those supporters have to make a choice.

On May 23, the Boy Scouts of America held a historic vote of its governing body, in which it decided to admit openly gay members for the very first time. Adult scout leaders who are openly homosexual will still be prohibited, and sexuality of any kind is also still forbidden in Scout activities.

For those involved in Scouting, but whose religious beliefs teach against homosexuality, the time has come for them to decide whether to stay on in the program, or look elsewhere. But because many of the “chartered organizations” — the groups that sponsor Boy Scout units — are churches themselves, an even bigger decision awaits. Laying aside your own personal beliefs, can you expect a church which teaches that homosexuality is a sin to financially support an organization that allows such practice?

In our area, the Greater Alabama Council of the BSA says that about 90 percent of all troops are sponsored by churches. In a survey that the council performed prior to the decision, roughly 70 percent of adult leaders preferred to keep the original policy in place, and nearly half said they would have a hard time staying with Scouting if gay members were permitted. For them, there are alternatives — at least two major evangelical denominations have their own groups, one of which is structured very similarly to the Boy Scouts.

Some churches have already made their decision to sever ties with the Boy Scouts, and one church in Morris is on record that they will not allow church resources to go to any group that supports gays. More will likely follow suit as the new policy takes effect on Jan. 1, 2014.

The Boy Scouts are free to set the policies that they wish, and churches are free to set and follow their own policies.

The Boy Scouts’ decision may well determine if the organization thrives as it has for years, or diminishes in influence.